The Coal Men Play Richmond

Early last month, my brother, Dave, and his band mate Dave Ray traveled up to Richmond to play a Coal Men show at the Ashland Coffee and Tea House. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Dave C. told me that the bass player, Hitch, wouldn’t be able to make it. Most trios have to pay close attention to filling in the space that comes so easy to four- or five-piece bands (or larger), and The Coal Men have done a great job at this for years. However, just a guitar and drums can sound a little weak at times. I suppose the most popular line-up like that right now is The White Stripes, and the fact that they have expanded to more piano and even different arrangements on albums should suggest that they struggle with that as well.

The Coal Men Duo at Ashland

Dave Coleman (my little brother) and Dave Ray play an amazing show as just a duo, Sept. 8th at Ashland Coffee and Tea.

It didn’t take too long into their sound check and warm-up for me to realize that this was not going to be an issue. Dave Ray’s drumming is so musical and intricate that he easily fills up the space, allowing Dave C. to elaborate on melody lines or even play a instrumental solo without loosing the tune. The entire show was a lot of fun and the two sounded great in the The White Boys line-up. They did a great job of talking just enough to introduce themselves to a largely unfamiliar crowd, giving some interest to a group of people that had mostly shown up to hear a band they knew nothing about.

Epiphone Guitar

Dave’s birthday present to me during the Coal Men show (other than the show, itself). It even has been customized with stickers on the back reading 30.

The best part of the show for me came in the second set, where my brother surprised me by announcing my recent birthday to everyone. He mentioned to the audience that he and I played music together quite a lot in our younger days and how I had more-or-less stopped about nine or ten years ago1. So, in light of my big 30th birthday and the fact that he wanted me to pick back up the hobby of music, he presented me with an acoustic guitar on stage. To say the least, I wasn’t expecting that (seriously, have I just become easy to surprise in my middle age?). It’s a very attractive Epiphone six-string that has a tobacco-burst finish.

Dave Ray was able to spend some time with his parents that evening and the following day (they’re from NoVA), while Dave C. got up the next morning and went on a nice 18 mile run with me (Angela did 15, nothing to shrug off for sure). We spent the rest of the day just kind of hanging out, although Angela and I did attend a wedding for one of my co-workers. We took Dave Ray out for Indian food for dinner, since he’d never had it before but was willing to give it a shot (I think he liked it; who doesn’t like chicken masala?). That evening was spent watching Family Guy and just chilling out. They guys took off the next day, but it was great to get to spend some time with them. Of course, I always miss hanging out with my brothers and I enjoyed getting to spend time getting to know Dave Ray, as well (I hadn’t actually seen the guy in over two years, I think).

I’ve been playing my guitar most days since. I’ve been able to remember some things (mostly just chords). There’s this new thing called the internet where you can find the chord progressions to just about any song, which is handy. I’ve also sat down in front of my computer with iTunes and picked up a couple of tunes, as well. I have no aspirations of every playing for anyone else, but it’s a wonderful hobby and maybe someday I’ll convince Angela to play a little guitar-flute duet with me, just as long she goes really slow.

  1. That was never really an intentional thing, but I just never had the space for a drum set. Also, a drummer rarely has really friendly neighbors for very long. I’m really glad that Dave still has my old drum set that I refinished with his help, along with my older brother, Steve, and our friends. []